On the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 2, men’s basketball head coach Jay Wright announced that he is not a candidate for the Philadelphia 76ers head coach position.
“Out of respect for our Villanova community and our 76ers organization, I feel the need to address speculation about the 76ers head coach position,” Wright said in a statement released on Twitter. “The 76ers have a great leader in Elton Brand, outstanding young talent, and an incredible opportunity for any coach to compete for a championship. As a lifetime 76ers fan, I have confidence they will bring in the right coach to build on what Brett Brown has developed. I am not a candidate for the job. I am very happy and honored to coach at Villanova.”
When Brett Brown was fired on Aug. 24 following a sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs, speculation quickly turned to Wright as the man to fill the job. Wright has coached the Wildcats to two National Championships and three Final Four appearances in 19 years on the job, going from a hot mid-major coach to AP Coach of the Decade for the 2010s.
Wright has been courted for, or at the very least been linked to, many jobs while he has been at the University, but only two have caused real speculation for Wright to leave the Main Line.
Following the 2009 Final Four, Wright’s first appearance in the last weekend of college basketball, Kentucky attempted to hire Wright. Kentucky is obviously a blue blood in the college basketball world, and Wright took his time and considered a departure. Obviously, it didn’t happen as he remained at Villanova.
The other job that causes Villanova fans angst when it comes to Wright is the Sixers. Wright has long expressed that he loves the Northeast, the Big 5 and Philadelphia in general. Going to the 76ers would not only allow him to take a step up to the NBA, but allow him to stay near the home he loves.
Following the 2009 Final Four appearance, Wright was also contacted by the 76ers. Then Sixers President Ed Stefanski, who is a Philadelphia native himself, reached out to Wright to gauge his interest in the job. The two did meet to discuss the job, but Wright ended up declining and releasing a statement, like the one he just released 11 years later.
As a result, whenever a 76ers job opens, speculation turns directly to Wright. Philadelphia is obviously special to Wright, and the city has never had a team as good as the one they have now. The Sixers are a legit playoff team that has real championship aspirations.
Despite Wright’s self proclaimed love for Philadelphia and the Sixers, a job in the NBA is immensely different from a job in the Big East. As those who closely follow the Head Coach know, Wright has pointed out on numerous occasions that he enjoys the anonymity the Villanova job provides. He has specifically been on the record saying that he enjoys going to the Jersey Shore during the summer with minimal interruptions.
Being the head coach of the local NBA team changes all of that. Winning two National Championships will get a coach a lot of attention and recognition, but nothing would compare to the pressure and attention he would receive as the Sixers coach, especially considering Philadelphia is a professional sports town above all else. Radio and television talk shows discuss college basketball, but just spend an hour or two a day watching or listening during a calendar year, and a very large majority of the discussion will be on the professional teams. At most, about 10-20% of their discussions are reserved for college basketball, mostly during March.
Wright confirmed on Wednesday that Villanova is the place he wants to be. Any distractions the basketball team has had to deal with in the days since the firing are removed as they now look forward to a season where they are ranked in the top three in the preseason and have a real shot at Wright’s third national championship and the program’s fourth.